The International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, now in its 25th year of full operation, became a hallmark of Nogales High School shortly after Barbara Mathis joined the NHS faculty in 1988, having experience as an IB teacher while working in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Dr. Raul Bejarano was principal and Dr. Marcelino Varona, Jr. was the assistant principal at that time. Varona subsequently became principal and helped shepherd the program to accreditation by IB International.
“When we were accredited, NHS was one of only three high schools in Arizona offering IB,” Varona said. “Back then we had an honors program and a few AP (Advanced Placement) classes, but this program allowed students to match their cognitive abilities to rigorous curriculum.”
Now there is an additional benefit to having students take IB classes and for those who actually earn an IB diploma. The Arizona Department of Education will award points to those who do, helping NHS and NUSD with the letter grade awarded, which ranges from A through F.
The process of being a full-fledged IB programme developed quickly after Mathis proposed the idea, and NHS teachers in various subject areas received training in the curriculum. Consequently, dozens of students have graduated with an IB diploma and hundreds more have taken individual classes to better prepare themselves for college. NUSD Supt. Fernando Parra was for a time the coordinator of the program prior to his joining the administration.
Current NHS Honors Coordinator Jennifer Valenzuela shared that the program itself was founded internationally in 1968 and is currently offered globally in 131 countries. The 10 pillars of the program for all students in the almost 2,500 schools where it is offered are as follows: IB learners strive to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. The diploma offered following a rigorous pre-university set of courses is recognized by over 2,000 universities. Those who earn one of the three types of diplomas offered must complete an extended essay where the student investigates a topic of interest and completes independent research. In addition, all candidates take a course entitled Theory of Knowledge designed to provide a foundation appreciation for different cultures. All candidates must also participate in the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) program of extracurricular activities and community service.
Students in the diploma program must complete rigorous coursework in two languages, social studies, science, and math, as well as higher-level electives. Then there are the end-of-year assessments in each course that must be passed in order to either earn college credit for a particular course or for those seeking diplomas, in all courses. Those who successfully complete all required coursework can enter college with enough credits to qualify as a sophomore.
The number of students who successfully earn an IB diploma varies from year-to-year, said Honors Coordinator Jennifer Valenzuela. This year there are 13 seniors who are potential graduates: Valeria Dabdoub, Athena Damon, Susan Dauz, Sahra Fong-Kee, Diego Garcia, Alain Godinez, James Harrison, Deana Molina, Andrea Orozco, Cristina Puerta, Rances Romero, Samantha Vasquez, and Ailssa Villa.
Currently there are 24 candidates that are in their junior year. All of these students are working on making a movie based on the conquest of America as part of their history project.
“All IB classes are at capacity. Many students like to take upon this challenge, take the test, and get college credit. This happens often in IB History, English, and Spanish A because these are the higher level courses,” Valenzuela said.